The Gospel of Matthew 24:36-44
Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Let us Pray God of hope, who brought love into this world, be the love that dwells between us. God of hope, who brought peace into this world, be the peace that dwells between us. God of hope, who brought joy into this world, be the joy that dwells between us. God of hope, the rock we stand upon, be the center, the focus of our lives always, and particularly this Advent time. This we pray in expectation of the coming of our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Today we light the first candle of the Advent wreath. This is the candle of HOPE. With Christians around the world, we use this light to help us prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we receive God’s light as we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.”—Isaiah 9:2
So, Christmas Day is four weeks away. Anyone ready? Isn’t it remarkable how Christmas seems to “sneak up on us?” Christmas Day is on December 25th every year, right? How do we miss it? It’s not like the advertisers haven’t been reminding us about it since October. And if that weren’t enough, we even have calendars that are specifically designed to count down the days to Christmas Day! How many of you have Advent Calendars in your house? Each day has a little flap or door you can open sometimes with a piece of candy or a little toy or gift inside to count down the days until Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning, a coming into being.
Advent is the season of the anticipation of the coming of Jesus to reestablish His Kingdom on earth. So, when we say are you ready for Christmas, are you ready for the return of Jesus. Keep awake!… for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. The day and hour about which we do not know comes to us in a thousand different ways. It comes to us as an unexpected gift, an unwanted loss, an unimagined future, a dream come true. Regardless, we had no way of knowing when, how, or if it would come. And we have no way of knowing what it would bring. Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare for the future, we live in the midst of uncertainty and unknowing. There are days and hours that take us completely by surprise, in good ways and in not so good ways. Events, in our lives always begins with the day and hour about which we do not know. Nobody knows when, where, or how each day and hour will evolve. It is unforeseeable and unpredictable. Things happen like Jesus says, like a thief in the night or a sweeping away flood. And that makes all the difference for how we understand the task of keeping awake to be ready for Christ’s coming – we wait, and we prepare, and we witness together. Look at the world today. Read the news. If there is a theme it is uncertainty, not knowing, a feeling of chaos and powerlessness. So, what if apocalypse is not about the grand finale, the end of the world, but about living in the midst of uncertainty and unknowing, living with the unpredictability of the future, living in the midst of chaos? So instead of worrying about the chaos, Christ gave us each other, so that we can remind each other of the promise that Christ is coming to make the world new, and that in the meantime, we can witness to that hope in a way that transforms us and our world. This is the hope of the first week of Advent. We don’t wait alone. On our own we can never be ready. We can’t stay awake the whole night, or, for that matter, build the ark by ourselves either. We can’t witness effectively, and we certainly can’t respond effectively to the ills of this world. But we aren’t pressed to wait or to be ready by ourselves.
We’re waiting. We’re still longing for the return of Christ. That’s what Advent’s about, it’s not just buying presents for people and looking forward to singing Christmas carols. It’s the awareness of the presence of Christ now and the longing for the return of Christ.
Let us Pray: God of hope and promise, be with us throughout this Advent season and draw us ever closer as we journey together toward the stable and the birth of your Son, our Savior. Amen